Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Painted Ceiling

It has been mentioned in this blog a few times before that although I make my living primarily as a cabinetmaker, in fact, I am an artist. Once in a while, I actually get paid to be an artist, which gives me great satisfaction. Such was the case for the past two weeks, in which I completed the following project. (working 12-14 hour days)

A painted medallion for the ceiling

I actually did this bit last summer; making a plaster medallion, then painting it, and installing it.

The plain plaster medallion, and after painting the ornaments gold

This year the clients asked me to paint the entire ceiling, so I had to make a design that would fit with the painting I had already done in the centre. The clients also allowed me to paint a few putti so long as they were "not naked" (even a crossed leg was not acceptable) Other than that restriction, and the comment that they wanted some birds, they actually gave me free reign to do what I wanted, which was very commendable.

Because of my perpetual problem of forgetting the memory card, this is the
closest I have to a "before" picture. This was at the beginning of the second
day of painting

The best way I could come up with to draw on the
ceiling; chalk taped to a stick

Neck-breaking work, this really gives a new appreciation
to the work that went into some of the great historical ceilings.

After one day of drawing and another of painting I realised I needed to come up with a better way to do this and save my neck. I thought of the method that Michelangelo supposedly used of making the scaffold high enough he could lie on his back, but this obviously would not work, because one thing an artist needs to be constantly doing is stepping back to observe his progress. (I achieved this by lying on the floor of my scaffold) In my opinion, what he probably actually did, was make a platform that he could move around on his scaffold and lie on that. I came up with a slightly less cumbersome, but not quite as effective, method of making a sort of chair. It had the advantage of allowing me to easily access my paint, but the disadvantage was that it still does not give as good of a perspective as lying down does. It also limits the area where one can work,and I was constantly moving it around. When I would get energetic and want to move from place to place quickly to work on multiple areas simultaneously, I had to just skip the thing altogether..

The clouds are finished here, I managed to get them to make sense with those I
had previously done in the medallion

The putti were drawn onto poster paper and then cut out to use as templates;
everything except the silhouette had to be done free-hand and therefore I
taped the drawing to the ceiling beside the painted in shapes to
 use as a reference 

Putti number two...

...three and four, plus a dove

This bloke looks terrible

As I began painting these figures, I realised how "rusty" I was at it. I had not painted figures in the past 8 years and I was never much for painting figures most of my life; add to that the additional challenge of painting upside down, and I really struggled to get going on this. I had intended to finish all four figures in one day, but at the end of that day, I had only done their silhouettes and this guy, which I was very unsatisfied with.

Another more detailed drawing, and a fresh start
made a difference, but it was still a bit of a

The third one went better...
It only took a bit over three hours to get this one

Once the main ceiling was finished, I added a "faux" border to it, painted to
look like moulding.

Again, my template only gave me an outline, I then had to paint all the
details in by following my drawing. I first did the highlights, then the shadows.

After adding a few birds, I was happy with the results, as testified by
my signature

This little baby cloud escaped from his parents up in the sky and came down
to have a look into the room

And these two are trying, though not very hard, to catch a bird. I managed
both of them and the bird in four hours; the rust was beginning to loosen up

For me, art should be more than just a "picture"; it needs to have secret things, which must be searched out. it must have things that cause you to study it, and it should keep you finding new things each time you view it. To this end, even though the composition is simple, I have added many things for contemplation, such as the cloud, which at first glance someone might mistake for a "mistake". This causes you to have another look. and then, once you find the answer to this riddle, you might think to search for more. There are plenty, such as the putto with a bow, but no arrow; look at what his companion holds. Two other putti are engaged with a dove, though the dove is perfectly unconcerned with their playful attempts at catching him.

The finished ceiling as one sees it upon entering the house; as if he is looking
up into the sky.

And here it is seen as one reads a picture on an horizontal plain.
All of the moulding is illuminated as it would be from the natural light coming'
in the window. I used  models to check for the lighting effect for each section.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Odd Bits

It has been a while since I posted anything about the work that I do which I actually get paid for. This has been mostly because I have not been working on any significant project which is "blog-agenic", In other words, there is nothing that I took enough pictures of to compose a story about, or that would look good in pictures, had I taken them. A lot of what I have done recently does not even photograph well, such as this marbling job that I just finished.

This is my best section

This project is impossible to photograph as a whole. It is quite wide, spanning almost the entire room (3.6 metres) and is painted on both sides. If the camera were far enough away to capture the entire arch, it would simply look like a thin frame around the breakfast room; something that I had nothing to do with. In addition, there are a couple of TV's, a computer router, some other electronic gadget of  large size, and a telephone which all distract from the view.

I first applied the carved moulding but did not take any pictures of that process. The best I can do is this picture after I made plinth blocks, but before attaching the carved sections of moulding.

Before the moulding and marbling process began

Another post I suppose I could have done, had I thought of it, was a picture frame I made. No, I did not carve it, this is made the same way frames have been made for centuries, using something called "compo" which is a mixture of hide glue, whiting, and natural (usually pine) resin.The stuff is super-heated with live steam until it melts, poured into a mould, and pressed under great pressure to remove air bubbles. it is then turned out of the mould and let to cool and cure for several days before it can be used. To use it, it is again heated with steam, which renders it flexible, and activates the glue in it so that it may adhere to the frame. It is a fun process, but this was the first time I had made a frame, and so was not to keen on taking pictures as I went along, I was just hoping like heck that it would actually turn out ok. I also gilded it after it was finished. Since my business is not making picture frames, I did not see the purpose of doing a post on the process. It was only made out of sheer necessity.

Finished frame; it will actually be hung horizontally

My friend Steffen made the wooden stock which is the basis of the frame.
To the left is a piece of the compo as it comes from the mould.

I did carve the scalloped edges and pierced the openings in the centres

Another thing I did with this same compo was this ceiling medallion. What with the delicacy of the design, the fact that it is attached to the ceiling, and that steaming this stuff makes it flexible, this was quite a challenge to get right. Fortunately it comes in 13 pieces, which helped a bit. I painted and gilded the parts before installing them. The end result is much nicer than your typical out-of-the-box plastic ceiling medallion.

A large (1.3 metre) ceiling medallion made of compo